LOVE TO BE NEEDED, OR NEED TO BE LOVED?
By Shari Schreiber,
How often have you heard yourself
say, "I'm a giver, not a taker"? Have you experienced
discomfort when receiving something from another, whether it's a
compliment, a kind gesture or gift? Do you know what it feels like
to be in a reciprocal relationship? If
these questions are triggering familiar sensations, it means you
had to start adopting these tendencies in childhood, and were made
to feel that receiving supplies of attention, affection and emotional
support came at a substantial cost to your parent(s). As a natural
outcome of this, you began putting the needs of others far ahead
of your own, because doing otherwise meant punishment,
guilt and/or shame.
You might identify yourself
as a 'rescuer type' personality, but you were not born with this
trait. It was cultivated in you from an early age, and it's directly
due to faulty relationship dynamics with an impaired parent.
Were you raised in a home
where everything you did was closely monitored or controlled? Did
you grow up feeling as if you had to be perfect, to please your
mother or father? What was the cost to you, if (God forbid) you
ever failed to behave perfectly? Might you have feared the loss
of their affection, approval or love?
you read through this material, you might experience sudden sleepiness
or perhaps a little sadness. This is a somatic
response, which means that a facet of you is relating to various
issues being discussed or explained here, and they have very important
meaning for you. While you may choose to take a short break, rest
assured that there's nothing to fear from these uneasy feelings,
and I encourage you to continue. You'll get the most value from
this information, if you return to the hyperlinks
that take you to other pages after you've finished
reading this entire article.
LIVING CREATURES HAVE NEEDS~ EVEN YOU!
A fairly large number of clients
have reported that throughout their life, their mother commented
on what a 'good baby' they'd been; "you never cried" is
what they've repeatedly been told growing up. All babies have substantial
needs, and they cry to alert their parent to what's required
concerning food, diapering, holding/comforting, warmth, etc. If
the baby never cries, we must ask why.
Did it feel unsafe to express these vital needs? Did we sense we
might not survive, if we inconvenienced our mother by having
any needs? As this child grows, will he mistakenly presume his utter
silence and refusal to have needs, is an admirable and good
None of us grew up being perfectly
parented--in fact it's virtually impossible to anticipate that this
could even happen. Alas, we are all products of our experiences,
which have impacted us to one degree or another, and that's what
this piece attempts to address. There will likely be parts of this
article that you'll relate to, and other parts you won't--but if
any of this material opens a doorway to greater self-awareness,
healing might begin for you and your child, parent or spouse, and
that's my objective.
is extraordinarily dense with meaning, and must
be absorbed very slowly, to help you understand why your love affairs
haven't worked out the way you've wanted them to. It's best that
you read no more than three paragraphs per day--then ask yourself;
what's this segment trying to teach me about myself? so
that you can learn, and actually benefit from it. With every review
of this piece, you will gain greater understanding, and emotionally
integrate even more of it~ so why stop with only one reading?
When you're a self-proclaimed
"giver," it's very likely you've been raised in a home
where important emotional needs were not acknowledged or adequately
responded to, and you've compensated for this deficit,
by becoming a caregiver. Even if you thought your
parents were overburdened in some way, you might have tried to become
an 'invisible' child, so as not to place more demand on
them, or risk incurring painful repercussion.
Perhaps you had a parent who
always put the needs of a spouse, neighbor or friend ahead of their
own (and yours), and as this was the example set for you, it's what
you've emulated. It's just what 'good people' do~ or so you've been
As a small child, you may
have discovered that taking care of another's needs provided vicarious
satisfaction, and a sense of safety, empowerment or self-worth.
Whether you've promoted another's dependency on you emotionally,
physically or financially as an adult, feeling needed has
fortified your self-esteem~ but it's also eased abandonment
concerns, which is the actual basis for your ongoing 'fixing'
behaviors and poor relationship choices.
AS THE TWIG IS BENT,
SO GROWS THE TREE.
to one's sense of Self during infancy and early childhood, are often
referred to as core damage/trauma or narcissistic
injury, within the body of this text. In simple terms, having core
issues means that the 'hub' of your wheel has been broken or damaged
in some manner. When the very center of your being is compromised,
all the spokes which emanate from that point will be weak, and susceptible
to breaking under any amount of pressure. Core trauma impacts every
aspect of our existence, as it shapes self-worth, and influences
how we think about and take care of ourselves, in personal and professional
small child has no way of relating to or making sense of the words,
"I love you." These words literally mean nothing, if they
aren't consistently backed up with gestures of affection and warmth,
which are congruent with their meaning.
core damaged child might ask his mom or dad, "do you love me?"
The parent's response may be, "of course I do, you're my
kid!" but a child who's looking for confirmation
that he is loved, is one who cannot actually feel or believe that
he is! The adult child will go through life feeling dependent on
validation and verbal confirmation from others, because from an
early age he's lacked parental affection and praise, from which
he would have learned he was valuable/lovable, and gained the capacity
core trauma results from poor or inadequate parenting from as early
as infancy, this wounding inevitably causes attachment struggles
in adulthood. Unfortunately, no amount of insight on this topic
can mend core issues, for what's needed is solid reparenting to
replace the faulty original template we grew up accepting
as 'normal' during childhood. In truth, this is a relationship
problem, which requires resolution within a corrective,
relational bond. You cannot resolve core wounding without highly
specialized guidance, and the opportunity to acquire specific self-worth
building tools. Standard modalities of treatment (i.e. psychotherapy)
cannot dismantle core issues, for resolution requires healing the
Heart that's been damaged, not the head.
THE CLONE CONSPIRACY
Narcissism in parents is the
primary cause of psychopathology in our society. The narcissistic
parent wants a child who's exactly like him or her~ a carbon
copy or clone so to speak. If this kid has different values and
personality features than the parent, he's regarded with disappointment
and disdain or disapproval, and criticized or punished. It's challenging
for any parent to bond with a child who's unlike him/herself,
but the narcissistic mother or father treats it like a sin, and
their 'prodigy' grows up never feeling good enough or lovable, just
for being himself.
This issue is usually passed
along generation to generation, which is why so many talented young
people are urged (often against their will) to echo the parent's
career choice or take over the family business, even if they have
no natural ability in that arena, or passionate desire to follow
a parent's path.
Depression in teens and young
adults typically results from feeling like they can never live up
to a parent's expectations, if they have wishes and dreams that
aren't congruent with Father's or Mother's. Hence, pleasing one's
parent routinely takes precedence over pleasing oneself, and core
issues having to do with this child's lack of selfhood become cemented.
Sadly, a parent may attach
more fully to the child who echoes his/her own more favorable traits,
but reject or criticize less favorable features, the parent has
failed to recognize and accept in him/herself.
The narcissistic parent is
insecure. God help the adult child who surpasses his parent's
achievements, for this inspires malicious competition from the envious
parent toward his/her offspring. A cloned child gets set-up for
feeling damned if he accomplishes, and damned if he fails~ which
can catalyze self-sabotaging behaviors, as it's somewhat easier
to accept a parent's dismay or disappointment in our imperfect performance,
than to incur his or her resentment and jealousy, if we excel.
This clone issue has far reaching
ramifications with respect to our adult relationship choices. It
clouds our judgment, in terms of how much criticism and rejection
we'll accommodate from romantic partners, as this is what feels
normal, based on faulty programming we received as kids. No matter
how much abusive treatment our partner dishes out, we're still desperately
trying to please, and win their approval and affection, which can
make us physically ill or exhausted~ and eventually, cause our death.
PAINFUL INNER CONFLICT OF THE TOO GOOD CHILD
child who's grown up believing they have to behave perfectly
in order to receive attention, affirmation or praise, has acquired
a distored definition of love. For this child, Love means painful
longing and yearning for that which cannot be gratified. Thus,
this same type of emotional experience is intoxicating in his/her
adult attachments, for their present anguish is literally identical
to feelings that he/she experienced throughout childhood, which
are now interpreted as 'the real deal,' or true love.
means, lovers who are capable of reciprocating their care
and affection, are rejected out of hand. It's boring and doesn't
feel like a fit, because this dynamic doesn't trigger the
inner pain that was consistently associated with loving, as a kid.
children grow into needful adults, but they could fear that if they
let themselves love somebody as intensely as they want to, that
person will shriek, run off into the night, and abandon them. Their
sense of need feels gigantic, and often painful. It presumes that
someone on the receiving end won't be able to handle it--which triggers
shame for being "so needy." This shame makes
one want to shut-down their needs (or control them), which is a
defense that has one giving to others, what he/she
desperately requires. It also has them choosing emotionally unavailable
partners who reactivate chaotic, painful sensations that reinforce
their childhood abandonment trauma.
core injured adult child lives with the tormenting, inescapable
question: "Am I good enough to be loved by you?"
disordered individuals have worked especially hard since childhood,
to convince themselves they're lovable. They've honed their talents,
abilities and seduction skills to compensate for a tormenting inner
sense that they're defective, which has resulted from years of inadequate
or unwholesome parenting.
Entitlement issues have to
do with poor self-worth, and our inability to feel deserving/worthy
of receiving what we need and want. Healthy self-esteem means that
we're equally as comfortable 'getting' as giving. Our desperate,
unrelenting quest to gain acceptance and approval from others (so
that we can feel good about ourselves) is central to compulsive
giving, fixing and rescuing behaviors. A lack of Self keeps us trying
to fill the hole in our soul at
any cost, with unsuitable partners who highlight core insecurities
we've retained since childhood.
'Wounded Bird Syndrome' is
an intricate relationship problem. It involves our subconscious
need to select and remain with somebody who's impaired in some manner,
and isn't likely to leave us for someone better. It's driven by
our deep sense of inadequacy, and accompanying wish to avert abandonment.
This poor self-worth issue is implanted in early childhood, by a
needy parent who required comforting or care for their feelings,
but wasn't capable of giving that kind of attention to us.
The act of
taking care of another, helps you access emotions like sympathy/compassion
toward someone else, that you've never permitted yourself to feel
toward you, which is projection.
Maybe you grew up with a depressed
mother or father, and you did whatever you could to ease their sadness
or cheer them up, with the secret hope that you might eventually
get the affection, care and playfulness You required. Your efforts
unfortunately went unrewarded~ and if that parent eventually became
sick and died or they committed suicide, you might have
grown up feeling responsible for not having prevented it, and your
Savior Complex was born.
are 'easy marks' for individuals with personality
disorder features, mostly because they grew up with an impaired
parent who was incapable of meeting their need for bonding. Their
inability to recognize and honor/respect their own feelings,
instincts and needs leaves them highly susceptible to engaging relationships
that lack reciprocity, which is examined and explained in detail
throughout this material.
GRASS ROOTS OF AN INTRICATE, ANCIENT GARDEN
child who experiences deficits in nurturant attention, encouragement,
affection, positive mirroring, etc. from his parent, presumes it's
his/her fault, and experiences shame ("I'm
not good enough/lovable"). This child grows up with the belief
that if he/she tries just a little harder to gain these emotional
supplies, they will be forthcoming. Up to a point, this has them
efforting to be perfectly helpful and useful--but it's seldom rewarded.
The parent may praise an accomplishment--but does not convey the
intrinsic lovability of this child, which reinforces his ideation
that he must 'do,' in order to receive acceptance and love. Some
children experience performance fatigue, and give-up trying
to get these crucial needs met, but carry the very same behaviors
into their adult associations! Their painful hope that someone,
someday will find them worthy of loving, has them chasing
after it (often, against all odds) in their romantic partnerships.
If they manage to find a partner who can initially mirror their
worth, it concretizes that it might not have been their
lack of lovability with their parents, after all.
The problem with this subconsciously driven need, is that they're
selecting lovers who are cut from the same cloth as the people who
raised them--and the end result is consistent/identical. This of
course, reconstitutes their original shame from parental
neglect and/or abuse. The desperate need to escape this awful feeling
of shame, perpetuates an unrelenting compulsion to get
love from partners who are as incapable of supplying
it as their parents had been, as this is what feel natural and 'normal.'
issue is exacerbated, when harsh
treatment from one of our parents is not only permitted, but
is sanctioned by the other with; "he/she really
does love you." This is terribly confusing for a small
child, for he/she experiences pain at
the hands of Mom or Dad, but is repeatedly told that "it's
Love." This skewed definition of what love is, taints our perceptions
and sets us up for a lifetime of accepting that anguish in our relationships
is to be expected, and that hurting is part of loving! Any parent
who has whitewashed abusiveness, has screwed up their child
for life, for he will always lack common sense and distrust his
instincts, unless solid, healing intervention is obtained.
a client tells me they had a "perfect childhood," or that
his/her parents had an ideal, long-term marriage, I know
we've got challenging work ahead. The reality is, if this were true,
they would not be struggling to form healthy attachments--and they
definitely wouldn't be needing my help. Denial keeps us
trapped in self-blame for our failings, instead of putting the blame
where it actually belongs. It also keeps us addicted to
dramatic, painful romantic experiences.
no such thing as "love addiction." What actually exists
is an addictive compulsion surrounding infatuation,
which is one's capacity to fall in love with him/herself, under
the adoring gaze of another. This is transcient, and has nothing
whatsoever to do with genuine love for someone else.
may have convinced yourself that your parents "did the best
they could" but if that's so, why are you
having to invest all this time, money and effort in therapy and
a litany of self-help venues, just to feel okay about yourself?
child needs to feel valued by his/her parent. He
needs to see welcome on the parent's face when he enters
a room, and feel like he really matters, and is adored. Very few
of us ever experienced this--in fact, what we consistently saw instead,
were expressions of indifference or annoyance--and this shaped how
we grew up feeling about ourselves!
reality, your parents showed you a distorted reflection
of yourself, and you've trusted it as accurate. (How could Mom and
Dad be wrong about me~ don't they know me better than anyone else
we repeatedly feel confusion, disappointment or distress in childhood,
we have to normalize those experiences in order to survive
them. Often, we stow away these difficult feelings or make them
not matter, so we're able to coexist with a variety of upsets--and
the people responsible for them (our parents). The problem is, these
survival strategies remain intact throughout our adulthood,
and prompt serious issues like anxiety disorders, addictions,
compulsive behaviors, attachment fears, impaired partner selection,
feelings are put away in childhood, our emotional growth is stunted.
As we can't help but be drawn to partners who echo our earliest
experiences and match our level of emotional development,
we're naturally attracted to others who are as underdeveloped and
damaged as we--which sets us up for failure in our Love life. These
unions seem familiar and 'normal' to us, so there's an
exciting and compelling drive to maintain them. This element is
discussed in greater depth toward the end of this article--but the
following material will help you understand why you've landed here.
always astounded, when I work with clients who have any
trust in God or sense of spirituality, after they've survived horrible
cruelty at the hands of their parents. To a small child, the
parent IS a god--someone
he/she trusts implicitly and automatically, to protect and care
for them. The stories I hear of the pain these people have endured
are heartbreaking, and I'm amazed at their capacity to even approach
A few of my clients have chosen
to share this material with their parent. If You are a parent, and
your grown child has gifted you this article or you've
found it by chance, there's a strong likelihood they're needing
your apology for some childhood issues they've struggled to surmount.
If you're wanting to build a closer bond with him or her, any attempts
to make amends must be heartfelt--and made without
explanations or excuses! The reasons you weren't 'equipped'
to do it differently or better, are of no use in context of easing
the pain they still carry. In short, this effort can't become about
you and your struggles, for while they may have empathy
and understanding for your plight, they're still wrestling with
unresolved wounds and trust issues. Healing is
only possible, when someone you've hurt (even
unwittingly) can feel your sincere remorse. While this
process isn't easy, it can go a long way toward helping you repair
any relationship where trust has been undermined.
CAREGIVER EQUATES BEING NEEDED, WITH BEING LOVED.
Your caregiving nature
is drawn to codependent relationship dynamics with friends or lovers
who are either handicapped, in crisis, emotionally/sexually underdeveloped,
substance addicted or in recovery/rehab. You've unwittingly selected
partners whose self-esteem is flagging, or whom in some way need
rescuing or extreme amounts of support or nurturing. Quite often,
feelings of boredom or emptiness will prompt phone calls to friends
who allow you to fuel/fix them with 'pep talks' including emotional
or psychological bolstering, and you feel
better afterward. Occasionally, you might romantically connect with
someone who initially shows promise or "potential,"
only to be disappointed and angry at the end of this relationship,
having carried the financial and/or emotional weight for both of
you! The subconscious theme that underlies this pairing process
is: "If you NEED me, you'll never leave me."
In the rare event a selected
lover presents as self-sufficient and non-needy, Caregivers are still
compelled to encourage some level of dependency. This can be demonstrated
by attempts to subtly undermine a partner's confidence in body image,
wardrobe preference, dietary habits, work proficiency, sexual adequacy,
etc. Basically, if there's opportunity to create (at least) an
illusion of being indispensable and needed, abandonment concerns
are averted. This behavior is driven by our subconscious determination
to maintain inequity in relationships, for the one who needs the
least is always the one in power.
Partners may unwittingly undermine
themselves by losing jobs, getting sick, injured, etc., to be complicit
with the dynamic you've needed to maintain in the relationship.
There's always a payoff in this--as the unspoken agreement or 'contract'
that was created when you two first joined remains unchanged,
and neither of you has to budge from your established role, or comfort
When a mate/partner is perceived
as diminished (or less than) you feel more secure, in that
you can control the relationship dynamic and manipulate its
emotional climate to suit internal comfort levels. In
truth, feeling needed is enhancing to
your self-image, and reinforces a sense of well-being/safety; but
if a lover gains some empowerment and develops a more equal
footing, your Caregiver prowess feels suddenly diluted. This is when
your emotional equilibrium is compromised and abandonment anxiety
surfaces, prompting either sabotaging or clinging behaviors. Selection
strategy generally insures against this outcome, as you will turn
away from lovers or friends who are capable of meeting you on a more
balanced playing field. Healthier choices require authentic
self-esteem, which you may never have had opportunity to develop.
You'll naturally guard against anybody discovering this secret, as
covert shame (a remnant from childhood) steers you away from more
viable, fully-integrated people who might notice your fragility
at the core of this issue?? Being
loved in totality is something that Caregivers do not fundamentally
believe is possible, as "negative" (or less appealing) traits
and feelings have been suppressed since infancy, in effort to gain
more affection and care, and mitigate fears of abandonment. Essentially,
this child has been emotionally blackmailed into responding to the
needs of his/her mother, and personality aspects that were unpleasant
or inconvenient for her to accommodate,
are surrendered/discarded. Even if Mom just wanted to shield her husband
from any form of agitation, her child is conditioned to believe that
specific facets and feelings are unacceptable and bad.
As he matures, he will internalize and adopt this attitude toward
himself; even the subtlest awareness of their presence makes
him think he's unlovable and "bad," so
he virtually amputates them out of his persona and becomes a People
Pleaser, which could have serious health repercussions.
issues, glandular difficulties, rheumatism, migraine headaches and
Anxiety/Panic Disorders are only a few
of the ailments that are triggered by long-held resentment and repressed
rage. It's not that anger is bad--but it's harshly self-judged,
and banished from the personality structure. Deficits in feelings/emotions
of any type results in one maintaining a partial
personality, instead of a whole one.
are attracted to dimensions/aspects in others, that are absent
in themselves (think of a jigsaw puzzle searching for its own
missing pieces in another, that houses a greater variety of shapes
and colors), which is key to why they attach themselves to
lovers who possess volatile, cruel or fragile personality facets.
Their desire for a sense of completeness prompts them to
seek it within others--rather than developing an autonomous, fully
dimensional and healthy actualized Self.
ONE MAN'S CEILING IS
ANOTHER MAN'S FLOOR.
Caregiver personalities learned
to mitigate their emotional pain in childhood, by noticing others
who were less fortunate. If they could observe another kid's far worse
plight, it affirmed (by contrast) that theirs wasn't so bad
after all--and it seemed more palatable. We've all grown up with platitudes;
"I cried when I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no
legs." You couldn't feel compassion for yourself,
because (according to your parents) there was always
somebody else who had it a lot worse--and besides, "pity-parties"
weren't allowed in your home!
If our parents judged or invalidated
our pain, we learned to treat ourselves precisely the same way when
uncomfortable emotions emerged. Core shame is experienced by the child
whose anguish or emptiness is trivialized by a dad or mom who is disconnected
from his/her own feelings and needs. This parent treats the
child's painful feelings as bad or wrong, and admonishes him to "snap
out of it," while assuring that others are far less
fortunate than he, and he should be grateful for what he has! This
kid will grow up invalidating his own wants and needs, for it triggers
core shame in him for desiring anything beyond mere survival.
There is no opportunity for
this child to receive an empathic response to his pain, nor grow up
with any capacity to respect his own feelings, and learn to self-soothe.
He becomes an empty, robotic shell of an adult, for this is who he
is schooled to become. His genuine feeling self is submerged/killed
When various feelings are disposed
of during childhood, our extra-sensory aspects (instinct and intuition)
cannot function properly. This puts us at high risk for professional
and personal setbacks, because rather than relying on our innate senses
(or built-in survival skills) to guide us, we make choices based on
what we think is right, rather than sensing
what's going to serve us. This can leave us second-guessing important
decisions and (worst of all) distrusting ourselves.
Your instincts will never
lie to you. If you find it difficult to trust others, it's because
you're so disconnected from your feelings, you don't trust your senses
to help you determine whom you can trust, and who you can't.
DEFENSES, DENIAL AND
DEATH OF THE REAL SELF.
false-self is grandiose, to compensate for its inherent human frailty.
It's constructed from defenses and denial of true feelings, which
keeps the real Self protected. This mighty, invincible aspect
we construct early in life helps us surmount painful emotional deficits
in childhood--but when we're grown, there's a heavy price to pay for
maintaining it. We're afraid to let that mask drop, for fear we'll
be viewed as incidental or useless, and be rejected. We've learned
that our survival depends on being strong/indispensable,
and there's no room for 'weakness' of any kind--but to really
love, means to need, and let our vulnerability co-exist
with our strengths within a trusted, deeply intimate connection.
Childhood coping strategies
taint our perceptions in adulthood. They have us feeling sorry for
another--even when they've caused us great harm.
The sympathetic feelings we give to somebody else are frequently triggered
by our own long-discarded sense of fragility that's projected
onto them! This reflex is automatic, if you've attached to a Borderline.
Rather than feeling your
anguish and licking fresh wounds, you will find ways to "forgive"
(but you're constantly obsessing,
and can't forget!). You'll make allowances or excuses for others,
but never yourself. Genuine empowerment has remained elusive, but
self-protective, survival defenses have remained intact, which impairs
your ability to forge healthy, reciprocal attachments.
THE BLIND LEADING THE
resolving core trauma gives birth to arrogance. It has us giving to
those who crave our attention, but don't actually want to get better.
Maybe you've provided a patient ear and offered sound support to a
friend over the course of months or years, but nothing ever changes
for him or her. You're addicted to the effort though, as it stimulates
feelings of aliveness in you.
compulsions are usually heightened, with friends who have Borderline
Personality Disorder features. They'll complain about issues with
a spouse or lover, yet won't seek therapeutic help for those concerns.
Why should they? You're their enabler who loves being
needed, and keeping them as impaired and hapless as they are. Ask
yourself, "what else would I be doing with all my spare time,
if I halted this behavior??"
friends try to piggy-back onto your inner work. Therapy 'by
proxy' never helps someone. You are not equipped to assist them, even
if you feel you're making solid gains in treatment~ besides, this
is the blind leading the blind, for rather than enduring your own
difficult feelings, you still want to distract yourself with trying
to relieve another of theirs! This behavior fortifies your rescuing
compulsions, and forestalls emotional expansion and healing.
great at fixing, rescuing, teaching and advising, but authentic
intimacy/closeness is unsustainable and avoided, given their
abandonment concerns. Caregivers are often attracted to borderline
disordered individuals who match their
own emotional deficits and attachment fears.
powerful individuals are attracted to others like themselves. They
don't prey on the weak or needy, and they do not need to
ENMESHMENT MEANS, "WHERE
DO YOU END, AND I BEGIN?"
Caregivers can't allow others
to experience difficult feelings, because they're unable to honor
and hang out with their own. When a friend is sad, caregiver personalities
feel an irrepressible need to micro-manage or mitigate the other's
emotions, because permitting their own has always been too
challenging. When you learn to tolerate your uncomfortable
feelings, you'll start letting others have theirs.
has developed an idealized notion of how he must be perceived
in order to be loved--so each giving gesture literally provides
a self-image payoff. While this emotional 'reward'
may be satisfying on some level, the compulsion to take care of others,
consistently overrides personal needs and underdeveloped
feelings, and perpetuates an issue of "Giving 'till
it hurts," because sensations of guilt and emptiness
are experienced when he doesn't.
If you haven't come to fully
accept yourself with both light and dark facets and feelings,
how can you possibly like and respect yourself? This issue sets you
up for having to buy another's love
to make up for your insecurities, with generous gifts, gestures and
behaviors that consistently place another's desires and needs before
your own. These actions are always automatic and reflexive, because
your needs have never mattered, and you haven't learned to
discern, respect or sanction them.
The Pleaser so hungrily seeks
approval, he'll happily work longer hours, take on extra
tasks that aren't part of his job description, never take vacations,
never ask for a raise in salary, etc. He secretly wants his contributions
to be noticed and rewarded--but fear keeps him from asking
for any compensation. He would literally prefer that his employer
intuit his needs/desires and grant what's never spoken of
or requested--as deep down, he doesn't feel worthy
of receiving. This entitlement
issue generally begins during infancy, due to the lack of adequate
care and emotional bonding with our birth mother, and having had little
ability to acquire trust that our basic needs could be met.
Unmet needs spawn painful, frustrating
sensations. It's natural for a child to decide that it's easier not
to have needs, than to keep feeling anguish from not having
his needs responded to and honored. This difficulty gives rise to
emotional autism which has us living in a sort of bubble that seals
us off from more pain, while reinforcing the non-needing, codependent
we've grown up making ourselves wrong for
having needs (one of the core tenets of codependency), it's easy to
feel like it's our fault, when we feel bad in a relationship
because we're not getting our needs responded to. This drives the
reflex to bury those needs, and make allowances/excuses for
others. It motivates the need to keep trying, in the face of any/all
obstacles and odds. This impulse comes from archaic sensations of
shame which are codified by a parent's distorted
confirmation that we're defective/unlovable. Our subconscious mind
presumes during childhood that if we were truly lovable, we would
get far more affection/attention, and be happy and content: It
never takes into account another's inability to
love him/herself, or anyone else!
Lurking underneath the surface
of every Caregiver's attachments is often the question; "when's
it gonna be my turn?" They erroneously
presume that the more they give, the more they'll (eventually/some
day) get back--but that cannot happen, due to the type of
person they've chosen to love. This issue is never resolved, because
reciprocal relationships literally feel uncomfortable, and are summarily
I once dated a guy who was the
quintessential codependent. I'm certain our relationship would have
fizzled immediately, had I not been forced to move out of my home
just two weeks into our dance. I felt some depression about it, but
he was 'Johnny on the spot' working overtime, to keep me in his life
against my better judgment (I kept stating this wasn't a great time
for me to get involved). He was very helpful during those months,
but the instant I found a new abode and settled-in, he started acting-out
his abandonment fears by retreating sexually. So I was (finally) feeling
much lighter, and wanting him more than ever~ and he rejected
me (as he assumed I would him, once
I'd rebalanced, and he wasn't 'needed'). Poor
THE FEAR OF GOD FACTOR
Judeo-Christian principles have
fueled faulty beliefs about what constitutes "a good person."
We might be programmed from early in life, to accept that selflessly
doing for others will bring us happiness--but if that were so, why
would so many folks who subscribe to this ideation be suicidally depressed,
and staying in joyless, unproductive relationships? Should we turn
the other cheek, no matter how poorly someone treats us? Is this spirituality--or
just martyrdom and masochism?
If God needed you to be devoid of all "negative" emotions,
wouldn't he have created you without the ability to feel
While Buddhism promotes the
belief that 'chanting' will bring us everything we want, it takes
a dim view of emotions and actions that aren't considered congruent
with 'being in service' to another--once again, de-prioritizing
our feelings and needs, and putting them on the back-burner
to simmer, and rob energy from more productive pursuits! This nonsense
is underscored by fears of karmic retribution, if we entertain a retaliatory
or vengeful thought toward somebody who's intentionally done us wrong--and
suggests that we surely must have done something despicable in a past
life to have deserved these parents, siblings or
friends who've treated us abominably. Christ, no
wonder Buddha was fat! If our core belief
is that we don't deserve abundance and love, chanting
won't work, because shame and guilt from our childhood block us from
receiving! That's not "Karma" ~it's just basic,
and other twelve-step programs actually reinforce and perpetuate
addictions, by urging folks to "let go of their anger."
Transferring an addiction from one substance to another is common--because
12-Steps don't teach you to accept, honor and function
from all your emotions, rather than a select
few! Darker feelings and personality aspects are discarded, in order
to 'work the program.' Making amends is lovely--but when it comes
to apologizing to a parent or friend who's been neglectful or abusive,
aren't we seeking forgiveness for crimes we didn't commit?? How can
this help us--and doesn't it further our shame, if
we keep feeling bad in those relationships?
In my view,
the single most damaging element of Twelve-Step programs, is they
make you integrate the (faulty) belief that you're "powerless"
against your addiction (how could they keep you "coming
back" decade to decade if you believed full
recovery was an option?!). Powerlessness is something you had
to accept and adapt to as a small child--because there'd be hell to
pay, if you didn't! Dominating, ruthless parents can make a kid feel
helpless and hopeless, causing far too many child suicides, which
adult 'caregivers' prefer to call "accidents." If you credit
AA or NA with keeping you alive, that's fine, but does your notion
of really living mean thriving--or
merely surviving? You left home as a young adult to be autonomous
and in-charge of your own life. Have you accomplished this yet--or
are you still dependent on a system that constantly reiterates that
you can't make it on your own?? Does misery
love company--or is there some other payoff in this paradigm
that I'm missing?
Throwing the baby out with the
bathwater isn't what I'm proposing here, but we need to challenge
the merits of these ideologies with some independent, rational thinking--while
respecting their real reparative value for providing an anchor,
a support structure, and a sense of family and belonging
that many of us have sadly, never known.
This 'sense of family' can also
catalyze detrimental consequences. It often has us
remaining in a toxic, abusive relationship or work environment,
out of an odd sense of loyalty--never realizing our well-being
is dependent on our ability to flee that excruciating situation. Having
missed-out on any healthy sense of 'acceptable' treatment
in our childhood, this pain we're tolerating simply feels normal
I'm a proof's in the pudding
kind of person. If a behavior brings you glee and contentment, it's
worth maintaining. If it doesn't, you'd better ask yourself whether
it makes sense to keep doing the same thing over and over again, expecting
a different result! Fear is what keeps societies trapped in systems
that repeatedly fail them. These are promoted by people who've
needed to control you, not by God--who wants
for you, what you want for yourself.
have grown up under such stringent control by their parents, it's
impossible for them to have adopted alternate, loving/accepting ways
to treat themselves. Their 'critical inner parent' (Freud termed this
the Super-ego) is overdeveloped, they're constantly judging themselves,
and there's no inner peace if they can't perform "perfectly,"
according to the unreasonable standards they've set for themselves!
This element spawns self-loathing in individuals who have sadly fallen
prey to narcissistic and borderline features. The
Black Swan is a 2010 film that exemplifies pathological
is very common within this personality type, for there's substantial
difficulty with identifying feelings and needs. Having learned
to obliterate emotions in order to survive, recognizing and conveying
them in a direct, straightforward manner is not only foreign, it involves
confronting long-dreaded vulnerability, and challenges/threatens one's
entrenched non-needing identity. Resentment is often
cumulative for someone who's unable to acknowledge feelings, and for
whom experiencing and expressing needs produces discomfort. Therefore,
a series of minor infractions that are usually unwitting on another's
part, are initially glossed over, and internalized as trivial or "unimportant."
Mounting resentment can easily erupt in explosive outbursts, but is
more often acted-out in a passive/non-direct
fashion, which can include physical, sexual or emotional withdrawal,
sarcasm, bitchiness, infidelities, delaying or "forgetting"
specific requests made by the lover, not following through with commitments,
etc. This style of interplay was learned by the (adult) child growing
up, as his parents were incapable of engaging him in healthier, more
constructive interactions. The outcome of this kind of parenting is
a deeply wounded self-esteem, and diminished sense of trust
in Self and others: We learn how to love ourselves
and others, by how we were treated as children.
SHOW ME WHERE YOU ARE,
AND I'LL KNOW WHERE YOU'VE BEEN.
Childhood experiences always
predict the nature of adult relationships. An extraordinary number
of males who've grown up without fathers or in homes where
the father was ill, abusive or just emotionally/physically unavailable,
have developed powerful inclinations to fix/rescue
females. When a mother's relationship with her spouse
or partner is lacking in emotional resources or she's unattached,
her children must often assume the complex (adult) role of filling
this void. While the eldest or male child is typically chosen for
this task, any child who's felt responsible for meeting his/her mother's
needs, will likely develop rescuing compulsions. These dynamics are
usually kept in place for the duration of one's life, or the life
of the mother (and beyond, if there are siblings for whom he or she
feels responsible). This enmeshment
issue acutely interferes with a Caregiver's ability to create an independent,
emotionally gratifying and successful lifestyle, without significant
feelings of remorse, shame or guilt over "inadequate" attention/support
to his parent or siblings, no matter how much has been given
Since these attitudes and behaviors
were essentially implanted during the earliest part of his formative
years, they tend to remain alive indefinitely. If specific therapeutic
help is not engaged to dismantle these constructs, they are projected
onto his romantic liaisons--which spawns significant emotional ambivalence.
Hence, a male who appears to "fear commitment" may actually
be trying to avoid engulfment, because he's
lacked a positive/sound frame of reference for what it means to experience
closeness (as a child, bonding meant bondage).
His twin fears; Abandonment
and Engulfment (or loss of Self), combine with difficult feelings
of inadequacy and unworthiness that catalyze destructive, compensatory
behaviors. Control issues and addictions help this Caregiver
defend against painful ambivalence that's characterized by deep
longing but fear of needing, and further undermine his
personal strivings and attachment endeavors. He (or she) might routinely
pursue relationships with borderline
disordered individuals, who are incapable of sustaining genuine
intimacy and connection; under these conditions of course,
the task of maintaining 'safe' emotional proximity becomes a non-issue.
Long-distance romances can also inhibit authentic affectional bonds,
and assuage one's engulfment
frequently construct and maintain fast-paced, highly stressful lifestyles,
to avoid difficult sensations (like emptiness, depression) that can
surface when they slow down enough to feel.
Busily responding to the needs and crises of others, reliably bolsters
a tenuous self-image that fits very neatly into their Avoidant Syndrome.
Fixing/rescuing behaviors help Caregivers side-step having to confront
personal issues and challenges, and distract from emotional
pain or dissatisfaction. This is a spectacular form of self-medication--but
relief is only temporary, which reinforces the addictive compulsion
to focus attention outside oneself, rather than looking within.
was once a child who required love and affection to mirror his intrinsic
value and self-worth. Since this was never properly reflected, he
has ingeniously invented various methods by which to gain
a sense of Self, by over-achieving, publicly performing, rescuing
or constantly responding to the needs of others. In essence, he's
been programmed to feel worthless, empty and invisible unless he's
actively doing, so the simple act of being
can invoke guilt and self-loathing. To avert these feelings, even
caregiving professionals are compelled by "fixer-uppers"
in romantic relationships, as well as needful, physically or emotionally
compromised friends who depend on them for support and refueling.
Healthy/whole people are drawn to balanced interpersonal
relationships--not codependent ones.
I had a close collegial friendship
for many years with a gal whose husband so frequently contracted the
Disease du Jour, she was utterly terrified every month or
so, that his demise could be imminent! Since this pattern existed
throughout the thirteen years we'd been friends, I couldn't help but
wonder what underlying issues perpetuated it. In short, what was the
subconscious payoff for his getting sick so often, or diagnosing
himself with each dreaded disease? I finally asked what changes
occurred in their day-to-day dynamic when hubby was supposedly critically
ill--and her reply was predictable; she
gave him a lot more attention
and tender concern! For a guy who'd grown up with
a mother who'd encouraged him to play in the streets, and
had little regard for his safety or well-being, I presumed this extra
attention from his overly-busy, psychotherapist wife felt pretty darned
good. As far as I know, they're still doing that dance--it's really
just simple, emotional mathematics.
This same "friend"
would only return my calls, when she could discern I was
struggling--but I'd have to wait a week or two to hear back from her,
if I just wanted a simple, friendly exchange. She'd offer to take
me to non-emergent medical appointments (which felt infantalizing),
but we'd have to plan weeks in advance, for a social get-together.
It seemed as if friendship was foreign to her, if she couldn't be
in the control seat. Given that I only got attention when
I needed her, I often felt pathologized or less-than in our
relationship. I'd occasionally find myself wishing I were one of her
therapy clients, because they received the lion's share of her attention.
Did I speak with her about these issues? Numerous
times, but nothing ever changed~ and while my affection for her was
very deep, I ultimately withdrew from this undersatisfying association.
THE DOOR TO WHOLENESS, BY HONORING EMPTINESS.
a child experiences aloneness, it hurts! He lacks a sense
of belonging, or feeling like he actually matters to anyone. These
difficult sensations can feel like emptiness/deadness, and trigger
deep despair. Given these children presume it's their fault
for feeling this way, they attempt to be more useful, important and
other-oriented, to keep their dreaded deadness at bay. This kid turns
into an observer who's always outside himself judging
his every move, rather than living inside himself and noticing,
trusting and honoring his own perceptions, feelings and senses.
Caregiver personalities are
'busy-bodies' who compulsively keep themselves running--despite sensations
of tiredness, sickness, injury, etc. If your entire sense of identity
is contingent on how well you take care of everybody else, how is
it ever possible to slow down, and respond to your personal
feelings and needs? Busy-bodies are typically unable to distinguish
between feelings and thoughts. These folks are accustomed to thinking
their way through life, as opposed to feeling their
way along. Instincts and intuitions are discarded along with other
vital sensations, that function as our inner compass or GPS. Their
absence can leave us shooting in the dark romantically, and settling
for harmful relationships, just to flee inner emptiness that feels
worse than most types of pain.
live with a powerful compulsion to give what they
never received. There's a dire, inescapable need to take care of everyone
else in a manner that's completely foreign to their own childhood
experiences. They'll never fully relax for fear that they're not performing
perfectly enough and have let someone/anyone down, if they
can't! These nagging sensations feel shameful, and reinvigorate their
disease to please~ which perpetuates controlling,
codependent behaviors. Selflessness is just a lofty word for codependency,
and it's dysfunctional.
When Caregivers construct elaborate
defenses like crisis/chaos addictions,
they're running from internal distress. Constantly responding to the
needs of others enables them to circumvent their own uncomfortable
feelings (anger, sadness, loneliness, deadness, etc.), and maintain
denial of deep, unhealed trauma. Descending into their personal
anguish within a therapeutic alliance is typically avoided, because
the notion of allowing a supportive, nourishing, ongoing relationship
(essential to helping them mend) feels threatening to their
non-needing or 'false-self.' Thus, even friendships and professional
or social connections that lack reciprocity
due to inherent limitations, are sub-consciously ratified and perpetuated.
Whether you're a therapist or patient: Feeling creates
opportunity and capacity for Healing.
HEAL THYSELF - THE WOUNDED PRACTITIONER
Individuals who've not addressed
core wounds (or narcissistic trauma) at the foundation of
this problem, may be especially attracted to careers involving psychological
or medical intervention. Psychotherapists, doctors and nurses are
all drawn to helping or "fixing" people, as this can form
the basis of their self-worth, and provide opportunities to 'change'
someone in ways that were never possible to accomplish with one's
parent. Their appetite for omnipotence
has germinated from early childhood, and was originally born out of
a need to construct a more powerful/invincible and sometimes grandiose
ego structure, to compensate for archaic deficits that left them feeling
disempowered or fragile.
The inner craving that stems
from this emotionally under-nourished period, fuels addictions
to alcohol/drugs, shopping, overeating,
over-work/exercise, scholastic or professional over-achievement, gambling,
sex, etc. Someone's drive to alter, elevate or numb his/her
mood with substances or compulsive behaviors, is a desperate attempt
to fill the core void. This void
or sense of emptiness, represents the most prominent
piece of every addict's fractured inner mosaic--and there's profound
terror which occupies that space.
Caregivers are way too tough
on themselves due to self-loathing, which is a learned response to
abuse and/or neglect during childhood. Maybe they left home to flee
shaming criticisms--but continue beating-up on themselves
for failings or imperfections. It's imperative you
get help to reverse this!
is frighteningly common among helping professionals. Reluctant to
acknowledge or experience personal needs, even psychotherapists may
neglect to confront their own core disturbances, which leaves
them ill-suited to recognize and empathically respond to their patients'
most distressing feelings, struggles and self-sabotaging patterns--but
is it even possible to effectively walk someone else through a tunnel,
that you've been unable or unwilling to navigate?
clinicians are invested in keeping their patients or clients in treatment
far longer than necessary to fortify their own sense
of Self--and gratify an unquenchable need to feel needed. Sadly, one's
client base might even function as a sort of surrogate family
for the therapist who has yearned for, but lacked a meaningful
connection with his or her family of origin, and this issue can extend
your treatment indefinitely!
caregivers are likely to have struggled with individuating from Mother
during early development. Not having made this crossing when it was
age appropriate to do so, has many of them feeling forever obligated
to take care of a parent's needs. Hence, their clients may grapple
with moving on from therapy, for it's an
abandonment trigger for the clinician who has unresolved issues pertaining
to their own disrupted attempts to separate and build autonomy during
childhood. The ugly truth is, your recovery process may be seriously
compromised, so that you'll never leave them.
are treatment-resistant. Many have never spent one hour on someone
else's couch, and need to fuel their belief that they've "got
it all together," given their professional accomplishments--but
such is rarely true. I've observed a great deal of borderline
pathology, codependency and other active
addictions in the psychotherapeutic community--and my sense is,
their grandiose defenses are just a by-product of unresolved core
When I was a
teen, my dad once said; "make sure you clean up the mess in your
own backyard, before you start on someone else's." This little
piece of wisdom has had me holding my feet to the fire, with respect
to healing and growth. Perhaps it can serve as a helpful reminder,
for you too. The truth is, we're not ready to take on passengers,
if we haven't plugged up the holes in our own boat. Many people lead
lives of quiet desperation, because they're drowning in an ocean of
unfinished business from their childhood, and have unwittingly chosen
mates who rip the scabs off old, unhealed injuries.
All my clients
have been core trauma survivors. Most have geographically distanced
themselves as far as possible from their parental home, in order to
establish a degree of emotional autonomy. Over time, the issue of
enmeshment (inability to discern and separate feelings, belonging
to either the parent or the Self) is resolved. At this juncture, one's
relationship endeavors can start to become more balanced, productive
and gratifying. One's mother figures most prominently within
this enmeshment scheme, as she is the first object of attachment,
and the mother/child bond is intricate and profound.
LOVE, TRUST, AND OTHER
A developing fetus hears his
mother's hearbeat and breathing, and shares her blood and oxygen supply.
He learns and becomes familiar with her voice and language style,
and co-experiences her emotional states right along with her; everything
she feels, he does too. In short, he forms a loving, intimate bond
with her in-utero, and there is no separation between them~ she is
him, and he is her. This of course, has far reaching repercussions
for children given away at birth ('adoptees'), and imprints them with
feelings of abandonment that are almost impossible to identify or
articulate without sensitive, highly specialized care. Pre-verbal
sensations of guilt, unworthiness and shame, which result from having
been given up for adoption or abandoned by a mother's untimely death
(or emotional withholding), make them feel "unwanted or discarded,"
and drive a deep need to avert this kind of trauma from ever
issues can inhibit connections that might become more than casual/superficial,
or cause one to retain relationships that are unfulfilling
or abusive; under these conditions, any connection could
seem better than no connection at all. Many of these folks compulsively
strive for perfection
in adulthood, to ameliorate their ever-present terror of rejection,
or being left.
Whether physical loss of the
mother constitutes part of this core deficit or not, enmeshment issues
stemming from emotional abandonment are easily implanted
during infancy and early childhood. Again,
when a woman's needs are not met by her spouse or partner, they're
often transferred to her child, which fosters an unhealthy, fused/enmeshed
bonding that conditions him to feel responsible for her survival and
well being. If the child's attempts to form an autonomous
ego are thwarted when he begins to separate and individuate
from her as a toddler, he remains fixated on the needs of his mother,
and on every attachment thereafter (to his detriment). Very early
on, he begins to sense that only a modicum of personal need fulfillment
is available to him, which impacts his sense of worth
and viability; in the process, he acquires a subtle anxiety that cannot
help but question, "if something should happen to
you, what will become of me?" This
deep concern prompts Herculean measures to rescue, fix/repair or normalize
his beloved parent and their interactions, to mitigate his abandonment
fears. At his own expense, he may even adopt the mother's depressive
or dysfunctional features, to retain some semblance of connection
with her. These rescuing impulses are automatically carried into his
adult dynamics, and are the root of codependency issues.
As previously stated, the basis
of this disturbance is intricate, and begins very early. When separation
is attempted by a toddler with a core-damaged mother, this necessary
aspect of his development virtually reactivates the mother's
original abandonment trauma (carried over from her infancy),
and re-awakens insidious primal rage that's projected
onto her child. Prior to his individuation phase, an infant's mother
might have started experiencing a sense of wholeness, connection and
purpose she's never known before, and these richly pleasurable sensations
fostered desperate measures to remain attached. Henceforth, the consistent,
underlying message in her tone, facial expressions and behaviors toward
him throughout his emotional growth could convey; "don't
you dare separate and cease existing for me and my
needs, or I will abandon/annihilate you." This would
echo her own disrupted efforts to retain affection and approval, while
attempting to forge an autonomous, healthy Ego, distinctly separate/apart
from her mother as a young child. Core emptiness can drive
a woman's psychic/emotional need to give birth to a lot of
babies in very close succession; think of Nadya Sulemon (The Octomom),
for she literally thrives on their dependency. A Borderline
mother may physically harm her children or make them sick in order
to keep them dependent, as with Munchausen's Syndrome by
Proxy, or she may murder them, as they develop beyond this stage.
In either case, this child's spirit is killed off,
which spawns a sense of despair and deadness or emptiness that (without
core trauma recovery)
can last an entire lifetime.
primal needs (from infancy) will always
take precedence over adult needs! Comforting/soothing physical connection
and touching can trap people in frustrating relational dynamics that
are lacking in emotional, cerebral, spiritual and financial need satisfaction.
Females often fall prey to relationships with males they think
have "potential," only to be disappointed when their practical
adult needs aren't responded to. They remain angry or dissatisfied--yet
are unable to leave, if their little girl needs for comfort
are being met. At the heart of this issue is enmeshment--and
grown woman needs are typically forfeited, within
this (lack of Self) paradigm.
enmeshment issues are especially common among men who attach to Borderline
women. A Borderline's clinginess and neediness can feel suffocating
and engulfing, but may replicate an adult male's earliest
bonding experiences (even before his birth) with Mother. This imprint
is potent/heady, and is often retained as a sense memory;
the way she smells, the nature of her touch or sound of her voice,
makes him think that he's unwittingly found what he's needed
his whole life! The loss of this type of attachment will
send a man into perilous pain and longing,
which is unmatched by any other (remembered) life event.
It should be noted, that if
a nourishing symbiosis
with Mother isn't possible during infancy, and a far more attentive/loving
attachment is forged with the father, an emotionally sound adult might
eventually emerge. But if the father should leave
through divorce, death or remarriage, the abandonment trauma
this invokes will significantly impact all future relationships. Anxiety
surrounding potential loss of another who might have substantial
meaning and value, can inhibit or destroy healthy, gratifying adult
connections, and exacerbate personality disorder features.
LOVE HAS BECOME ENTWINED WITH PAIN
The cost of
not resolving core wounds is reflected in every decision and life
choice we make professionally and personally, and it crucially impacts
romantic endeavors. A caring, mutually nurturing
and enhancing relational experience is completely foreign to most
Caregivers. They've seldom (if ever) received affection, support and
positive mirroring from a non-abandoning source, nor have
they experienced loving, that's unaccompanied by pain. The Caregiver
repeatedly welcomes relationships that reactivate dramatic/painful
sensations associated with maternal attachment difficulties, while
routinely rejecting those who are actually equipped to meet his/her
needs. There's little capacity to respond passionately to
a healthy/rewarding dynamic, because the familiar ache of intense
longing and yearning--which has come to be interpreted
as "Love," isn't present
with an available partner! One's perception of such a relationship
is that "something's missing," as it cannot trigger feelings
that parallel the disappointing/unrequited attachment experiences
he had to endure throughout childhood.
lover who's elusive, cruel, or just emotionally and/or physically
unavailable can trigger painful sensations that replicate
what the Caregiver experienced as a child, seeking a loving/responsive
parent. This emotionally inadequate, yet dramatically felt kind of
episode functions as a powerful catalyst, that inspires a tenacious
(and vaguely familiar) pursuit to seduce the object of desire
into returning his attention and ardor. Since the intense feelings
that are invoked by such a relationship are compelling and addictive,
any individual who awakens
them, is thought to be addictive as well. In the rare event an
attachment is successfully formed, rejection by the lover
can set in motion an internal re-creation of his earliest abandonment
experience, and drudge up excruciating feelings of inadequacy and
shame, which are nearly impossible to tolerate. Punishment of the
Self, such as compulsive, addictive reflexes or destructive acting-out
behavior, usually accompanies or follows this kind of setback.
Perhaps the most tragic part
of this issue, is that core-wounded individuals unwittingly
seek lovers who are no more equipped to respond to their needs, than
their unavailable parent was! They continue to embrace the notion
that they'll one day find someone who excites them, and whom they
can train or teach to love them in ways they've always wanted--but
this is a child's fantasy that will never be realized. Still, if these
inexhaustible efforts should yield even marginal success, they could
feel encouraged to remain, and continue striving for that which cannot
It's very important to realize,
that if a lover could become responsive to his partner's
needs, he'd be discarded because of other perceived shortcomings or
"flaws" that would suddenly seem untenable; again, an available
lover doesn't provoke an intense visceral response. In truth, the
thrill is in pursuit and seduction, which perpetuates an endless
re-enactment of a child's most fervent wish for a closer bond with
his/her parent, while defending against a more palpable fear of losing
a deeply meaningful and nourishing attachment. This often means, that
individuals who are actually capable of loving/caring interactions
are distanced, punished or rejected, so that anxiety surrounding devastating
abandonment, is kept at bay. This
is the Borderline's crucible.
The narcissistically injured
Caregiver may repeatedly convince herself that she is capable
of intimacy, by practicing relationship skills with partners who are
incapable of fully responding to her. Thus,
she continues to refuel the notion that she is "available"
by taking calculated emotional risks--the rewards of which, are false
reflections of her actual capacity to bond. I'm reminded
of a colleague who periodically resuscitated discarded relationships.
During episodes of re-engagement, she was utterly convinced she loved
and wanted these men, but always admitted that if the current lover
pursued commitment, she'd beat a hasty retreat, and enumerated
his "deficits" to reinforce her stance. When one of these
former boyfriends eventually gained closure and attached to another,
this gal succumbed to a severe depression. Unable to reseduce
this man, she appeared to re-experience her childhood abandonment
despair, in having to surrender this intensely felt, yet under-satisfying
connection. My sense was that profound core sensations of
loss, shame and unworthiness, paralleled acute, long-denied pain from
unhealed archaic wounds perpetrated by her borderline disordered mother.
trauma can create a virtual minefield, in context
of romantic endeavors. Sadly, the partner of an abandoned (adult)
child cannot help but step on emotional land mines that have lain
dormant, perhaps for decades. Self-esteem injuries that have existed
since the primal rejection experience are reactivated--which
triggers intense anguish and rage. It is this
mechanism which elicits volatile/violent reactivity from BPD individuals
toward anyone who's gotten close to them.
As this early
painful material isn't usually held on a conscious level in terms
of its impact, repercussions from a lover's unwitting slights
are very difficult to recover from, and often bring about a couple's
Many of us grew up observing
our parents doing battle, and as children learn from example, this
became our definition for what 'marriage' meant. If we're
somehow lucky enough to have found a copasetic, nourishing relationship,
we might need to upset that balance, just to feel like things are
normal. In short, we've gotta throw a monkey wrench
into the works, because harmony and peace feel foreign--and therefore,
uncomfortable. We could even have become somewhat like the
parent we most feared or hated.
CAN'T BUILD YOUR CASTLE ON A CRUMBLING FOUNDATION, AND EXPECT IT TO
critical to understand, is that many of us lacked a healthy/consistent
during infancy with our birth mothers. As a result, our search for
'perfect attunement' with romantic partners (for which
we have no suitable frame of reference) can easily continue indefinitely.
The compelling drive to manufacture this nourishing/satisfying primal
experience (and heal), propels us toward intense, unstable relationships
that echo familiar, but defective interpersonal styles that were imprinted
throughout infancy and childhood. Stated more simply, our model
for meaningful adult attachments has been constructed from
a relationship blueprint, which consisted of painful, anxiety provoking,
under-nourishing experiences! This early blueprint continues to influence
self-worth and partner selection, unless and until a solid,
nurturing therapeutic alliance can provide a sturdier foundation
built on supportive, empathic interactions.
healthy people do not choose to be with lovers who aren't.
The person you choose to love
and partner with, mirrors your own level
of emotional development. If you are truly seeking an authentic and
intimate relationship, you won't attach to or remain with someone
who's not, because he/she isn't a 'match' for your fundamental needs
and desires. If you think there's a pattern in your romantic
life that consistently feels lacking, disappointing and/or painful,
you might ask yourself why you're attracted to this type of individual.
More importantly, try to discern the feelings or fears that
emerge for you, when you contemplate deeply loving someone, who could
actually respond to you the way you've always wanted, and
needed to be loved.
This is my keystone piece, from
which nearly all other material on this site emanates. It was originally
conceived and written for psychotherapists. More on core injury can
be found within other Articles
and various Forum
discussions. Archived questions and answers relating specifically
to these concerns, are available in my Codependency
Forum. If you're a practitioner with a desire to integrate healing
work into your practice, private guidance is available.
you are seeking help with codependency issues, or your group or organization
would like me to speak on this topic, feel free to contact
me. The following forum letter should provide further insight about
Q. Your article hit home for me,
and I was amazed at the profound power of knowledge. But how do you
change all those "familiar" patterns, and stop rejecting
good people who could be loving/giving to you? What is the recovery
or hope of changing all that early programming, as who had a chance
when they were an infant?
Trust is (ideally) established in the first year of life with our
mothers. As an infant, you may have begun sensing
you couldn't depend on her to respond sufficiently
to your needs, and started moving toward emotional self-reliance in
order to survive. This has served you in some ways, but not in others,
as it's kept you from getting help with
forming healthier, more gratifying attachments! Effective therapeutic
support assists you in healing early deficits, by providing corrective
emotional experiences that are qualitatively different than what you've
been exposed to in your past. These therapeutic opportunities allow
you to receive nurturing, attentive (re)parenting, and assist you
in feeling more worthy (and desirous) of nourishing, loving experiences
within your interpersonal world. Early emotional trauma can be overcome
with the help of a professional who understands how profoundly these
wounds have affected you, and hindered your capacity to accept and
trust an ongoing, nurturing,
supportive relationship. Most 'therapy' doesn't tap into this material.
Seek help from someone who's well-versed in treating narcissistic
injury (or core issues). Additional insights can be gained via the
writings of Alice Miller; search for this author
you have an iPhone, iPad or iPod this app will let you hear
here, to determine if you're in an abusive relationship!
'TILL DEATH DO US PART - BPD and The Marriage Crucible
TO BE A GOOD-ENOUGH PARENT
GOOD WIFE - Who's helping You, when his Ex is a Borderline?
WE MET BEFORE? The Borderline/Narcissist Couple.
The Drama of the Gifted
Child, by Alice Miller (and/or any other books from
"I Don't Want to Talk
About It": Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male
Depression, by Terrance Real.
by David Schnarch, Ph.D.
Shari and Get Session Details
PsychSavant at Twitter.com
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2015, Shari Schreiber, M.A. All Rights Reserved.